Watchable Launch Takes Comcast Outside Cable Footprint

Seven months after CEO Brian Roberts said Comcast was focused on selling products within its own cable footprint, the nation’s largest MSO launched a free over-the-top video product available to every Web surfer nationwide.

Comcast’s Xfinity X1 customers may be the only consumers who can access programming from its new Watchable service through cable set-tops. But Comcast is also distributing Watchable through iOS and Android apps. And anyone with a Web browser can access the media player at Watchable.com.

Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz describes Watchable as a beta product in a blog posted Tuesday morning. It contains content from 30 suppliers, ranging from Buzzfeed and The Onion to Scripps Networks Interactive and Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

“We want people to try Watchable and tell us what they think.  Over time, we’ll add additional network partners, make the experience more personalized, and include new options to share content with friends,” Schwartz wrote.

Roberts told analysts in February that Comcast’s priority remained marketing products to homes within its cable system footprint. “Our focus is in-footprint investing in networks, having direct relationships with customers, having tens of thousands of people in the field to come to your home and service you, and then add devices in your house, and grow that relationship over the years,” Roberts said on Comcast’s fourth-quarter 2014 earnings call.

But with rival Verizon planning to flip the switch on multiplatform video service Go90, and major cable programmers such as Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co. stepping up investments in direct-to-consumer services, Comcast is compelled to field an over-the-top product that can deliver ad-supported IP video content to any screen.